City Hall Theatre

31-32 Park Row,
New York, NY 10038

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johndereszewski on December 10, 2018 at 7:03 am

Thanks for the new photos. It is interesting that one of the marques references an extremely early 8:30 AM opening time. This probably highlighted the early hour nature of this theater which, even then, was hardly situated in a residential area. Also, the all male and very business-type nature of the opening day audience also underlines the business and governmental nature of the theater’s clientele.

HomecrestGuy on December 9, 2018 at 9:01 pm

I just added two photos, circa 1940, of the City Hall theater, from the NYC Tax Photo collection, digitized and released online in Nov. 2018.

johndereszewski on August 31, 2016 at 11:50 am

As Mel Allen would say, “going, going, gone”. As of today, absolutely nothing remains of the old theater; it is now little more than an empty lot – that will soon be replaced by yet another high rise building. While I had hoped that some remnant of the theater could re-emerge during the demolition, this was not to be. So, adieu, City Hall Theatre!

johndereszewski on May 6, 2016 at 11:55 am

This will provide an update on the demise of this building. As of today, the buildings situated between the old theater and Beekman Street to the north have been totally leveled. The demolition of the old City Hall Theatre is just beginning. Perhaps some elements of this old theater will briefly be viewable – or not – as it is razed.In any event, this will be the last time to view whatever remains of this theater.

johndereszewski on April 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

I am sorry to say that, as I write this, the building that once housed this movie theater is in the process of being demolished. This is part of a big project that affects a number of buildings situated on the east side of Park Row, just south of Beekman Street. I am sure that yet another skyscraper will soon replace this row of five or so story buildings.

During the next few weeks, portions of the theater’s old interior may be briefly viewed as the building is demolished. So, if you have a camera, this may be the time to visit this site.

dallasmovietheaters on January 25, 2016 at 3:55 am

Launched September 30, 1916, the $100,000 City Hall Theatre was the Reliable Theatre Circuit’s attempt to convey Old New York from large interior hand-painted murals and large photos to portray a NYC from bygone days. The rationale was simple: the City Hall was replacing a 2,700 seat class often identified as the city’s first theater and the Ambush Co. delivered the decoration of the space. Louis Steinhart’s frame of brick and steel housed solid copper doors, ornate glass transoms for ventilation, and ivory and gold chandeliers. It was said to be designed as a downtown mini-Strand with just 520 seats.

Patrons enjoyed the Kimball Orchestral Organ prior to showtime and then projection by Powers 6B projectors. David Weinstock was the original manager. Open from 9:30a and last admittance at 11p daily came with a cost – 15 cents, a bit steeper than the 10 cent theaters of its day. Picture at opening in photos.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 18, 2012 at 11:56 am

Ed’s right. The Tribune Theatre was in the white building partly seen about a block to the left of the City Hall Theatre in the photo at the top of this page.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

Actually, Tinseltoes… I believe that this is a photo of the Tribune Theatre, which was located closer to the Brooklyn Bridge entrance, in a block of buildings that no longer exist.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 18, 2012 at 11:46 am

Appears to be a blank marquee. I wouldn’t be surprised if this theater was dark for stretches during the Depression.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 6, 2012 at 6:53 am

The July 8, 1915, issue of The New York Times said that the Reliable Investment Company, headed by Joseph Weinstock, had leased the property at 31 Park Row from the Jay Gould estate, and on expiration of the lease of the current tenants (on May 1, 1916) intended to replace the existing building with a moving picture theater.

I’m not sure if the original building, which dated from 1881 or 1882, was ultimately demolished, or was merely remodeled. However, plans for altering the City Hall Theatre building were filed in 1922, according to the February 4 issue of Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. Architect Louis A. Sheinart was responsible for the plans, which included removing an existing wall, installing a new wall, beams, seats, stairs, and a marquee. A bowling alley was also mentioned as part of the project.

nycelluloidgirl on February 5, 2012 at 1:37 am

The marquee says “Bing Crosby – Martha Raye” from the film “Double or Nothing.” Released September 17, 1937.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

This was still listed as open in the Film Daily Yearbook for 1946. It is listed as closed in the 1947 edition.

jflundy on July 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm

I have come upon several photos of the City Hall Theater marquee which could not be used because of copyright issues, This is the best one i have seen and it is available thanks to Frank Pfuhler. Frank has kindly made vailable about 3000 photos from his collection of traction subjects on Webshots.

View link shows a TARS conduit streetcar on Park Row at City Hall from sometime between 1939 and 1947 as it waits to run back uptown. The City Hall Theater is in the background.
Perhaps someone can make out the movies ‘now showing" on the marquee.

LuisV on June 14, 2008 at 2:35 pm

After I posted above, I realized that 5th Avenue and Central Park West both have odd and even #’s on the same side of the street as they knew that no structures would ever be built on the Park sides.

There is another oddity in addresses downtown in the Financial District. The numbers for the addresses on Broad Street run North to South instead of the standard South to North. Don’t know why that is. :–)

LuisV on June 14, 2008 at 10:46 am

Lost Memory….There are some Streets in New York that contain both odd and even # adresses on the same side of the street. I believe this happens when there is no “other side” of the street. For example, across from Park Row is City Hall Park. Since there are no buildings there to have the even #’s, both odd and even were used for the East Side buildings.

jflundy on October 9, 2004 at 4:33 pm

I have located a photo of the theater showing part of the marquee and building facade. It was taken in May 1941. It was in operation at this time.
the photo shows a four storey building with a pool hall on the second floor front. South face of marquee reads:
Laugh Hit……..
Pirate of……..
Late News……..
Remainder of dotted lines is not shown in photo.

This is not the theater I was describing in a previous comment above which would be located to the north around a corner from this one.

bamtino on August 30, 2004 at 5:23 pm

Both address searches and DOB inquiries do show that the property is currently occupied by J&R. The last Public Assembly Permit listed for the location is dated 1944 so, in theory, the theatre was still operating at that point.

bamtino on August 30, 2004 at 5:17 pm

The theatre was apparently located in a four-story structure on property owned by the Jay Gould family from 1881-1946. An earlier, five-story structure had, at various times, housed the New York World, Daily News, and New York Times as tenants but was apparently demolished in 1916.
As mentioned in my summary, the theatre was operational no later than 1919 (there was a quickly-extinguished projection booth fire in June of that year). In 1926, Loews acquired a 32-year lease on the facility but, by 1939, the property was leased to Douglas Amusement Corporation (which apparently operated several upper Manhattan and Bronx theatres).
In 1946, the structure was sold by a corporation comprised of Gould’s heirs and was slated for renovations to make it suitable for retail space.
I’ve found some reference to 1950s and 60s operation of a Horn&Hardat Automat in the basement of a structure at this location. Does that ring any bells for anyone?

jflundy on August 30, 2004 at 11:31 am

I have a recollection of a theater in the old Tribune Buiding on Park Row.

Park Row was the old center of the newspaper business in NYC in the 19th Century and into the early 20th. This area was also a transportation hub in period 1890-1943 when Brooklyn trolleys and ‘L" trains ran over the Brooklyn Bridge and met the Manhattan 'L" system and Third Avenue Railway trolleys at Park Row near City Hall.

The theater I recall was built into the old cavernous press rooms of the Tribune Building with an entrance on the northside facing toward the Brooklyn Bridge. It had a small round marquee that appeared to be of late ‘30’s or early 40’s vintage. It may have been called the City Hall but I can’t remember with any certainty. The last time I remember it open was circa 1961.